How COVID-19 fosters creativity

If the millions of views of Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk Do schools kill creativity? are any indication, the subject of creativity is important to people. Creativity, as the source of all innovation, has also been increasingly paid attention to in the context of work and business. Many leaders have recognized and acted upon the empirically proven fact that the emergence of creative behavior at work does not just depend on individual abilities, but on facilitating factors in the work environment as well.

Yet as Richard Hytner from London Business School points out in an excellent article, our overall work culture still leaves much to be desired in terms of how creativity is handled and promoted. Business leaders’ appetites for guaranteed outcomes all too often stifle creative endeavors, and the fear of failure generally prevails above anything else. Add to that regulatory difficulties, and new ideas have an extremely hard time to enter the stage.

So with this in mind, the dedicated and innovative achievements done by key workers and problem solvers combating the coronavirus pandemic are nothing short of a testament to the human spirit. Considering that organizational constraints may now very well be even more severe than usual, many of the implemented ideas to address our current crisis represent a degree of creativity that is breathtaking. From collaborations between racing-engine developers and academics to create a new breathing device, to brands’ increasingly creative use of social media, to hand-free door handles in Lithuania, everything is there.

But how does it happen? How can we explain such a surge in creative behavior and the impressive overcoming of constraints at a time when the circumstances are difficult and unforgiving? Enter two more, extremely important determinants of creativity: intrinsic motivation and the ability to actually “make an idea happen” in the real world. Combine the two and miracles may follow. The people responsible for those feats of creativity we are currently seeing have an inner drive, a passion, to use their skills in a way that is meaningful. And what could be more meaningful at present, to people with the necessary drive, than to help their fellow human beings overcome the difficult challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presents us with?

And this is the lesson business leaders can take away from all this: Create a work environment (without the need of a virus, of course!) that allows your people to cultivate ideas and find meaning in what they do. Kindle the sparks of motivation, once they appear. And crucially, support your people in going all the way and realizing their ideas, thereby giving them the training to do so again and again.

Featured post image: Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

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